Matzah on the table and shrimp in the freezer. Yeah, I’m that kind of Jew.
I’m also the founder of TC Jewfolk Jew, the on the Board of Directors of my local JCC Jew, the my daughter is in Jewish preschool and I’m going to send her to the Jewish Day School when she’s in kindergarten kind of Jew.
Passover is my favorite holiday but the food rituals are a perfect (or imperfect) reminder of this dance I do all year long, trying to define who I am as a Jew and what it means to be Jewish to me, to our family, today.
I don’t go a day (sometimes not even an hour) without either thinking about being Jewish or doing something Jewish. “Super Jew!” my sister-in-law says, part-joking, part-teasing, part-admiring.
And yet we don’t “keep” Shabbat. We try to light Shabbos candles and do the blessings, but we also watch TV, and turn on lights, and write and pay bills, and shop on the weekend; and I do my legal work from home on Saturday when I’m not taking our daughter to Tot Shabbat at synagogue. (Although I try to reserve Friday night for family time without a computer when I can.)
But that’s our generation, right? I’m torn. I’m sure you are. How the hell are we supposed to take the whole day of Shabbat off? That’s insane! Who has a day off these days? Yes, for vacation, but every weekend? Or maybe I should build that into my world, and it’s a great ideal, but I just don’t know how.
At the same time, I’m not sure how much of religious Judaism I WANT in my life. I love my shrimp stir fry with Paleo sunshine sauce, even though you’ll never see a photo of it on Facebook because I feel bad showing you that I’m not the-good-Jew-I’m-supposed-to-be-whatever-that-means. And that’s the Jewish guilt, right?
When will I/we/our community figure out that it’s not about being bad or good Jews but just about BEING Jewish?
It’s about being proud of and celebrating our culture, tradition, rituals, and peoplehood; and not judging people (or ourselves) where we don’t fit into the molds of Jewish observance that our grandparents and great-grandparents formed (and they probably internally never really fit into anyway).
So yeah, you saw me stocking up in the Passover aisle at Cub Foods and then dining that night at foodie Travail Kitchen with its pork jerky on a stick. Make sure you say hi when you see me at synagogue on Friday night too.
I’m not going to fit into a pretty Jewish box. Most of us don’t. But that’s what makes our community so awesome, and we should all embrace that. Hell, I personally need to embrace that. I hope you’ll join me.